Is Orthognathic Surgery Painful?

Orthognathic surgery is a corrective procedure designed to improve the function and appearance of the upper and/or lower jaw when their alignment with each other is defective. Causes for such defects include congenital conditions, medical conditions, and injury, and the effects of these defects can range from mere discomfort to difficulty eating, speaking, or even breathing, with a whole host of symptoms in between. In light of the severity of some of these side effects, orthognathic surgery could dramatically improve a patient’s quality of life as well as their health. As with any surgery, though, it’s reasonable to be concerned about pain. During orthognathic surgery, the patient is fully anesthetized, which means the surgery itself isn’t painful. As the anesthesia wears off, it’s common for patients to see noticeable swelling and bruising and feel sore in the bones and muscles of the jaw and the surrounding area of the face, and some patients report temporary numbness in the area. It’s also common to feel a sensation of pressure or moderate pain specifically in the area of the jaw joint, which arises as the jaws adjust to their new positions and usually dissipates within a few weeks.

Swelling following surgery usually lasts a couple of weeks and can be managed with ice compresses and, when surgery has been performed on the bottom jaw, a compressive bandage wrapped tightly around the face. It can also be helpful to sleep with the head slightly elevated to keep facial swelling to a minimum. Bruising can be expected to dissipate along with swelling and may appear localized to the surgical site or be more widespread. Your oral surgeon will prescribe pain medication and may also prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection at the surgical site. If additional pain mitigation is needed, anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended, but be sure to report any extreme reactions to your surgeon. As the muscles and bones in the jaw continue to adapt, discomfort or soreness could cause difficulty when eating or drinking and could complicate the ability to properly clean the teeth, though maintaining effective hygiene is important. Your doctor will provide specific instructions for your aftercare to make sure you stay healthy as you heal promptly and thoroughly. Even if it’s difficult to drink comfortably for a few days, it’s important to stay hydrated and take in sufficient nutrients as you heal, and there are tools and tips your dentist can provide to make this easier. You’ll also adhere to a liquid diet for a period following surgery, gradually introducing soft, nutritious foods as your jaws heal. Because it can be difficult to consume sufficient calories when on a limited diet, it’s usually recommended that patients eat multiple small meals throughout the day.

Following surgery, you should brush your teeth after every time you eat, even when eating multiple small meals. Take care to focus the bristles directly on the teeth or braces and use adapted cleaning tools when your mouth doesn’t fully open in the first week or so after surgery. Rinse the mouth with warm salt water periodically, and make sure to clean the surgical sites as instructed by your surgeon. Avoid forcing the mouth open or otherwise exerting the muscles for about ten days after surgery; then, adhere to your surgeon’s recommendations for exercising and stretching your facial muscles to help them support the function and comfort of your newly arranged jaw.

Home Care After Orthognathic Surgery?